What Should I Do About My Dog's Fire Ant Bites?
What Happened to My Dog?
I learned about fire ants the hard way when I was walking my dog Kaiser one day, and a friend of mine stopped with his car. We were chit-chatting when Kaiser suddenly started rolling on the ground.
It looked a bit awkward for him to do at such an odd time, so I coaxed him to get back on his feet. Minutes later, he was on the ground again, this time jerking frantically as if something serious was going on.
As I looked at him this time I saw the source of his agitation: there were several fire ants right on the spot! My poor dog was being bitten all over by them! I moved him away and headed home to check him out.
It looked like most of the bites were on his legs, as the ants were trying to climb. I decided to keep a careful eye on him as I checked to see if I had some Benadryl on hand in case he was going to suffer an allergic reaction.
Shortly thereafter, he started licking at the bitten areas. A little lick here and there soon turned into an obsessive licking and biting that showed no signs of ending. I had to take action!
How Are Fire Ant Bites Treated?
Once I recognized the bites, I applied what I knew was a good remedy for pets bitten by bees, wasps, and all those nasty stinging creatures.
I made a paste of baking soda and water and applied it to the wound. To prevent my dog from licking up the baking soda, I applied a sock and made sure he didn't take it off. I also applied an ice pack covered in a towel every few minutes.
The baking soda and water paste worked pretty quickly. I think the fact that the baking soda was in my freezer (to keep odors away) provided further relief. Minutes later, he was resting peacefully, and he ignored the bites for the rest of the day. I am happy that there was no need to give the Benadryl as I am not too fond of giving medications to dogs.
However, in severe cases, a dosage of 0.5 to 2 mg of Benadryl per pound is a good remedy for dogs suffering from insect bites. As with administrating any medication over the counter, it is highly advisable to discuss this option with your veterinarian first.
Days later, Kaiser's legs were full of whitish-gray marks where he was bitten. These marks really took a long time to go away (several months). Kaiser only suffered from a mild reaction, but there have been reported cases of dogs dying of anaphylactic shock.
Usually, this occurs within minutes after being stung. Warning signs are difficulty breathing, collapse, and respiratory failure.
Here are a few tips:
- Never hose down a dog with fire ants. The ants will only panic and bite down harder.
- Keep an eye on the bite. If the area swells up, this may indicate a possible infection that requires treatment.
- Try to limit your dog biting at the area. Fire ant bites seem to be painful at first and terribly itchy afterward. Apply ice packs and a baking soda and water paste to give relief. If needed, invest in an Elizabethan collar.
- Always keep Benadryl on hand, especially for signs of allergic reactions.
- Use common sense and call your vet promptly if something does not look right.
- Contact an exterminator should you see fire ants in your yard.
Three months later, Kaiser still had marks on his leg. It took a long time for them to disappear completely. In the meantime, I made sure my dogs stayed away from these nasty creatures!
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.
© 2008 Adrienne Farricelli